How Red Dot Sights Work: Everything You Need to Know

If you have owned or shot a firearm recently, there is a good chance that it came with a red dot sight. Red dot sights are incredibly popular because they offer you an enhanced alignment experience. No matter what position your eye is in, you will not experience any parallax error. 

Red dot sights are not only used on bigger firearms (for example, rifles) but can now also be found on smaller weapons like handguns. Options like Pinty Scopes can be fixed on all different types of guns. The purpose of a red dot sight is to give you an accurate idea of the target by showing you exactly where you’re shooting. 

But do you know how red dot sights work? In this article, we talk about the working of a red dot sight, the alternatives, and the pros and cons of this type of aiming device. 

Table of Contents

How Do Red Dot Sights Work?

Red dot sights employ the use of an LED (light-emitting diode) and a spherical mirror to give you the clear, focused dot that you can see on your scope. The reason the color red is used is because of its sharp contrast to the color green. If you’re hunting or enjoying a spot of casual shooting, there is a good chance that your background will be green. 

The spherical mirror that is used on the scope lets the light beams be completely parallel when they bounce off it. This gives you the bright, focused point in your scope without causing distortion or flashing. 

A special type of coating (partially silvered multilayer dielectric dichroic) is used on the curved mirror in the sight. Even though the LED is red, there might be some other colors present in the light emitted by it. Using this coating allows other colors to pass through the mirror by only reflecting red, giving you a bright, pure point. 

how red dot sights work

How Do Red Dot Sights Work for So Long?

If you get a red dot sight, you might realize that the lifespan of the reticle can be up to thousands of hours. This is because of the LED used in the scope. You get a solid-state LED that does not consume a lot of energy, so you can safely use your red dot sight for years without having to replace it or refresh the battery.

What are the Different Types of Mounting Types for Red Dot Sights?

Red dot sights are available in many different mounting types. Because guns exist in a variety of mounting patterns, you need to make sure that your scope and the top of your gun are compatible. For this reason, a lot of scopes are designed to fit on multiple mounting patterns. 

The most common mounting patterns that you will find for red dot sights are the Docter/Noblex standards, the C-more standard, the Shield standard, the Trijicon RMR standard, and the Aimpoint Micro standard. 

how red dot sights work

What are the Advantages of Using Red Dot Sights?

Red dot sights are hugely popular. Here are some of the advantages that make red dot sights such a ubiquitous thing in the gun community. 

  • Ease of Use

Red dot sights offer you a simple solution to aiming. You can just look into your scope, point, and shoot at whatever the dot lands on. Whether you’re new to shooting or you’ve been shooting for years, using a red dot sight is as intuitive and easy as it gets. 

  • Speed

If you are shooting quickly at a short-range (for example, hunting), red dot sights can change your shooting for the better. As you always have a proper dot to fall back on after recoil or reloads, you can shoot more quickly at short distances while also keeping both your eyes open. 

  • Accuracy

Red dot sights, when calibrated and set up properly, offer great accuracy at short distances. Newer red dot sights come with holographic variations, which means you get no parallax error. This can cause a huge improvement inaccuracy. 

  • Alignment

Conventional sights mean that you have to align the rear and the front sight. With a red dot sight, there is no need to carry out this adjustment because of the optical characteristics of the scope. 

What are the Disadvantages of Using Red Dot Sights?

Although red dot sights offer a great shooting experience, they are not perfect. Here are some things you need to consider before buying a scope of this type. 

  • Price

Red dot sights are NOT cheap. If you go for a high-quality mount from a popular brand, you might end up spending hundreds of dollars on them. Entry-level dots might be more affordable, but the truly good ones will be an investment. 

  • Magnification

While there might be some magnification options when it comes to these scopes, most red dot sights do not come with any magnification at all. This makes them unsuitable for long-range shooting. 

  • Long Range Shooting

Speaking of long-range shooting, magnification is not the only issue when it comes to red dot sights. While you might find the option to change the size of the reticle on some sights, shooting at a target far away might not be as accurate with these kinds of scopes. 


Red dot sights have become very popular for all types of guns in recent years, including rifles, shotguns, and even handguns because of the kind of speed, accuracy, ease of use, and overall convenience they offer. For short-range shooting, red dot sights are an excellent option, both at the range and while hunting. 

We hope that this article has explained how red dot sights work and their pros and cons well. Check out our other posts to learn more about everything related to guns!

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